Proposal for Const. Amendment - Article II, Artisan Branch

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Moon Adamant
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Proposal for Const. Amendment - Article II, Artisan Branch

Post by Moon Adamant »

[i:1f0fetgz]Preamble[/i:1f0fetgz]

In the present moment of territorial and population expansion, to insure our ability to act quickly and flexibly, the executive powers of Neufreistadt-CDS should be united under a single Executive Branch. This draft establishes the Executive Branch and defines its powers.

The proposal relieves the RA from having to include implementation details in legislation. This frees the RA to pursue the larger vision and define guidelines rather than legislating lower-level details. The proposed organization allows a constant check on executive actions by elected representatives. The executive is empowered to carry out specific actions by legislation passed in the RA. The RA can revoke or modify legislation at any time.

This amendment also provides for transparency in executive actions, thus insuring open government and a higher level of citizen participation.

++++
[b:1f0fetgz]
Proposal for Constitutional Amendment - Article II, The Executive Branch[/b:1f0fetgz]

[b:1f0fetgz][i:1f0fetgz]A. Objective:[/i:1f0fetgz][/b:1f0fetgz]

To create and define the nature and powers of an Executive Branch and replace the Artisan Branch in Neufreistadt-CDS.
[b:1f0fetgz][i:1f0fetgz]
B. The Executive Branch:[/i:1f0fetgz][/b:1f0fetgz]

The Executive Branch of Neufreistadt-CDS is responsible for planning, organizing, and overseeing the implementation of executive actions. Executive actions provide detailed guidelines for the implementation of legislation.
[b:1f0fetgz]
[i:1f0fetgz]C. Scope[/i:1f0fetgz][/b:1f0fetgz]

The allowed scope of executive actions is described in Bills passed by the RA in beginning of each legislature. The Executive Branch may delegate administrative tasks related to civil servants, by Administrative Act.
[b:1f0fetgz][i:1f0fetgz]
D. Composition, Election, Empowerment[/i:1f0fetgz][/b:1f0fetgz]
[i:1f0fetgz]
Composition and Election of the Executive Branch:[/i:1f0fetgz]
The Executive Branch is a cabinet of no less than three citizens. The Executive Branch includes and is coordinated by a chancellor who is appointed by the faction winning the largest number of seats at the RA. In case of draws:
Same amount of seats: the faction electing the first seat appoints the Chancellor.
Same amount of votes: the factions with the same amount of votes nominate each a candidate for chancellor, and the RA votes bindingly between these.
[i:1f0fetgz]
Empowerment of the Executive Branch:[/i:1f0fetgz]
The Executive Branch is confirmed by the RA, in the first session after each election.
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[i:1f0fetgz]E. Mandate and Checks[/i:1f0fetgz][/b:1f0fetgz]

[i:1f0fetgz]Mandate of the Executive Branch:[/i:1f0fetgz]
The mandate of the Executive Branch is the legislature for which it was elected. The Executive Branch dissolves automatically after each election, when a new RA takes seats.
[i:1f0fetgz]
Balances and Checks on the Executive Branch:[/i:1f0fetgz]
The Executive Branch must meet at least once a month in a public debate organized by the RA. The RA may also summon the Executive Branch to its meeting by simple majority.

Any Representative of the RA can at any time call for a vote of confidence on the Executive Branch. If a simple majority rejects the vote of confidence, the Executive Branch is dissolved, and a new chancellor is appointed, following the rules above.

Executive powers can be revoked or amended by the RA. The RA can review all administrative acts issued by the Executive Branch and can revoke any Administrative Act. The SC can veto any Administrative Act on constitutional grounds.

The SC can start an impeachment process against any member of the Cabinet, on constitutional grounds. All factions holding a seat at RA appoint a member to judge with the SC the impeachment process.

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Post by Claude Desmoulins »

OK. Let's start the process here. The first huge question is why? Since your proposal removes any executive veto of RA actions, why bother with a cabinet. Just let the system work as is with the RA hiring civil servants to enact the legislation it passes?

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Post by Justice Soothsayer »

A three(or more)-headed executive branch, with folks required to be from different factions, seems to be a recipe for a whole lot more drama than we need.

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Post by Jon Seattle »

My understanding is that the executive here is headed by a chancellor who appoints (subject to RA approval) the other two or members of the cabinet. There is no requirement that these members be from different factions (although that might happen, who knows).

Justice, can you point to the selection where cabinet members are appointed from different factions?

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Post by Jon Seattle »

Claude, this depends on your model. If you assume a US ‘winner take all’ model for an executive it makes sense to let the executive have a veto.

This is a european style executive, an arm of the representative assembly. It’s purpose is to let the RA focus on matters of policy while the executive deals with day to day operations. There is obviously a need to discuss how checks and balances work within this system, but believe me they do.

The alternative to having a cabinet is to let the RA use legislation to run things on a day to day basis. You have have to either run things under the table or pass endless laws saying “Person X do this, person Y do that.â€

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Correction!!

Post by Jon Seattle »

Going back though our drafts, I notice that I made an error in the editing. The sentence:

"The Executive Branch includes and is coordinated by a chancellor who is appointed by the faction winning the largest number of seats at the RA."

should read "The Executive Branch includes and is coordinated by a chancellor who is appointed by the faction winning the largest number of seats at the RA, who then appoints the other members of the cabinet."

This is entirely my fault, as Moon's draft included this language.

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Post by Moon Adamant »

[quote="Claude Desmoulins":39t2h3ac]OK. Let's start the process here. The first huge question is why? Since your proposal removes any executive veto of RA actions, why bother with a cabinet. Just let the system work as is with the RA hiring civil servants to enact the legislation it passes?[/quote:39t2h3ac]

I agree with starting the process here :)

First of all, i think that there are some issues here that are not being fully understood.

Let’s first of all look at it in terms of power transfer. The RA, as the only branch elected, holds all the power transferred by citizens. In our current model, that power corresponds to two powers of state: legislative (easy) and executive - mainly because the executive power was never defined and assigned.
Basically the executive power ATM in N’stadt is the power that isn’t either legislative or judicial, since these two are fairly well defined and assigned.

So here you have a first issue: you don’t know exactly what is the executive power (what does it imply) and you don’t know very well either who can take actions belonging to that executive power. This actually implies delays as the branches discuss who can take those actions. It is also not clear how the transfer of powers from the RA to the Guild is processed.

Another issue is that the RA legislates indiscriminately documents of three distinct natures: constitutional (those of a political nature), legal and administrative. For clarity, let’s use an example. let it be Civil Service(CS), since we CSDF are presenting simultaneously a Bill and an Amendment that regard it:

Constitutional - In our example, the Constitution would read something like: ‘ Executive power can delegate the execution of tasks to a Civil Service’. This is a statement of a political nature.
Legal - Framing legislation for the government action. The CSDF bill on CS is a good example: it frames the whole CS, without specifying who is who, doing what - it instead says, how are these people appointed, how are they mandated and empowered, to whom do they respond, etc.
Administrative - these would be pieces of law dealing with administrative issues. You know now - because you have it in Constitution - that you can have a CS to whom executive can delegate tasks. You know now too - because you have a Bill - how is it appointed, how are tasks delegated, etc. And so you just need to draft now very short acts saying that, for example, X is appointed for Archivist, or that the tasks for Civil Servant Z are this, this and this.
(Gwyn has explained this issue admirably in her post, and much more thoroughly. I am using a slight different terminology because i want to refer this text directly to our CSDF proposal, and there you have the terms Executive Actions, which definition is matter of law - in a Bill to that effect - and Administrative Act, those that draw upon the Executive Actions. We can agree later on a better terminology).

So, when you have executive and legislative in same branch, you have to concern yourself about all this. Now, being time a finite resource, what does happen when you privilege the discussion of any?
If you privilege Constitutional, you’ll end up delaying framework bills and Admin Acts. You have political intentions that are not concretised into a body of law, not to mention that they ever reach an actual execution.
If you privilege Legal, you may not have time to make sure it agrees with Const - but we do have the SC to take care of that! And you may not also have time to make it go down to the Admin level
If you privilege Admin, then your risk is not only that you end up passing anti-const acts (but the SC again is there for that), as you also don’t frame the Admin Acts. This means that you end up using precedent for everything - repeating eventual mistakes, slowing the discussion as precedents are retrieved and discussed (and you can have incoherent precedents too... more and more discussion).

Not to mention another thing - sometimes you don’t have quorum for decision at the RA...

So, to answer your question, why don’t you assign tasks directly from RA into the Civil Service?
Imagine that you do need a Civil Servant to carry on a determinate task.. and you have to appoint Y for that. You don’t have a Framework for Civil Service... you need to draw another bill, stating that the Civil Servant for the task Yy will be mandated by the RA for the completion of Yy, that his/her duties are ... etc etc.
You write it down and take it to discussion. Someone on other branch notices that it is incoherent in some point to the previous Bill for the Civil Servant role of Ww... discussion follows. you may even to adjourn it for next session... and in next session you don’t have quorum. One month lost... but the task is still there, waiting to be carried on. Imagine that you don’t have quorum till the end of term. No task done.
Not to mention that if/when you actually manage to get the person in job, the person may not an adequate framing for the task to perform! So, he/she may have to ask for clarification to the RA again. Redo from scratch.

So our proposal has three main aims:

- To avoid micromanagement, for efficiency reasons
- To avoid the stopping of executive action when RA doesn’t have quorum.
- To relieve the RA from discussing fine Administrative points, and instead focusing on discussing framework legislation and constitutional matter.

Ranma Tardis

Post by Ranma Tardis »

The "Executive Branch" is under the complete control of the RA. It might as well be a part of the RA under these rules. It has no independence at all really. A simple majority vote is too easy for removal.

I see no point at all in bothering with an "Executive Branch" under this model. Who would want to do it when the RA is telling you want to do all of the time? No "tough" decisions could take place. This person would have to take a poll of the RA before doing anything.

I see the "Executive" being the leader of the controlling Faction of the RA. I would call this position the Prime Minister or PM. The job of the PM would be to appoint the cabinet and run the civil service. The PM can dissolve the RA and call for early elections. The RA in turn would have the power to have a "vote of confidence" and would require a "super majority" of 2/3 of the members of the RA. If this would happen the PM would be forced to resign as PM and would be replace by the next ranking in their faction. Also the RA would get dissolved and a new election would result. The above is the "European" model.

A more of an "American" approach would have the "Executive" being voted into office directly by the population. I would call the "Executive" in this position the President. The job of the President would be to appoint the cabinet and run the civil service. I would also include a Deputy "Executive" who would also get elected by the general population. I would call this position the Vice President. The President cannot be a member of the RA, SC be the GM. The President can be removed from office by a "super majority" 2/3 vote of the RA. The Vice President would serve the remaining term of the President unless removed. This would cause new elections to occur to replace both the executives and RA. The leading faction member of the RA would act as a care-taking President until new elections occur.

Last edited by Ranma Tardis on Sat Aug 05, 2006 1:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

This is an intriguing discussion; I hope that people don't mind if I comment :-)

It seems to me that the aim of increasing legislative efficiency by avoiding micromanagement can quite easily be achieved without any constitutional amendment at all, but by simple delegation. A bill could, for example, say something like:

[i:2hid2b1v][b:2hid2b1v]1.[/b:2hid2b1v] There shall be a Ministry of Works, which shall have responsibility for the design and control of commercial land and amenities in the sim of Neufreistadt.

[b:2hid2b1v]2.[/b:2hid2b1v] The Representative Assembly at its first meeting of each term shall appoint, by simple majority vote, a Minister of Works, to serve for the whole of that term, who shall either personally or by delegation discharge all of the functions of the Ministry of Works.

[b:2hid2b1v]3.[/b:2hid2b1v]The Ministry of Works shall be allocated a budget of L$?,??? for each term, which it shall use only in connexion with the discharge of its functions, including the appointment of any holder of post or office that the Minister of Works may consider necessary or expedient for the discharge of any of the functions of the Ministry of Works.

[b:2hid2b1v]4.[/b:2hid2b1v]The Minister of Works shall attend every meeting of the Representative Assembly of the term during which he or she serves as the Minister of Works, and shall there answer any questions posed by any citizen there regarding the discharge of the functions of the Ministry of Works.[/i:2hid2b1v]

Further statutes could then delegate other functions to the Ministry in question. Statutes establishing ministries may or may not require that the Ministers in question are members of the RA, but it would perhaps be wise, for the sake of democratic accountability, if at least those ministers who serve important functions were required to be elected Assembly members. I hope that I have contributed something useful to the discussion :-)

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Post by Justice Soothsayer »

Thanks, Ashcroft, for a very useful contribution. I'll add on to it with a related question: "do we need an executive branch"?

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing various national models (parliament, cabinet, president, etc.) but perhaps more local forms of government may be better models.

In my RL state of Ohio, we have a form of government known as the “County Commissionâ€

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Post by Claude Desmoulins »

I'm going to ty to back way up here. The fact that both factions proposed Guild/Executive reform suggests that there was a broad consensus that something wasn't working. I'll try to tackle what I think were the reasons for that perception and what bearing it might have on where we go with this issue.

1. Stuff wasn't getting done.

With the long delayed sale of Platz commercial parcels as the most visible example, there was a sense that things weren't happening. However:

* When the purges of June 2 hit, city infrastructure (walls and roads) was replaced in days

* By and large, things the city has paid for came in on time and on budget,

So this may be a matter of volunteer work (amazing when people are motivated -- think volunteer firefighters -- but not to be relied upon for trash collection) versus compensated work rather than a structural issue.

2. The Guild isn't accountable

Despite the assertion that anyone can join the Guild and contribute, rise to Master is by invitation only. Since only the GM and the Masters have any power at all, you end up with two of three government branches that self select.

The CSDF solves this by tying the executive to the RA via appointment. The DPU prefers something where the executive branch is more directly accountable to the citizens.

I'll tackle the question of executive independence in another post.

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Post by Patroklus Murakami »

I think you've hit on some important fundamental points there Claude. I want to comment on your analysis of where the perceived 'need' comes from and provide some additional supporting reasons for establishing an executive branch.

First of all, I agree that one problem with Neualtenburg (as was), and the current Neufreistadt, is that sometime stuff just doesn't get done. I'm not sure if you're saying we should rely on volunteer work but the 'pitching in' after the conflagration of 2 June both inspires and worries me. It is inspiring to see people united in defence of and rebuilding their community but it also leaves us open to precisely the same problems that we have experienced in the past. What happens if someone says they want to be paid for their efforts? Who owns the work that was done? Under what circumstances and by whom can the structures be amended, resold, modified etc? We can't get by on goodwill and pulling together in the face of adversity. We need something more durable, predictable and reliable.

There was one major issue that convinced me to support an executive branch. I'm a constitutional conservative at heart, I don't like tinkering for tinkering's sake and 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' is my mantra! (Having said which I have no problem with proposing solutions where these are needed). One thing we are missing is clear leadership. By that, I mean that it is unclear to us and to outsiders who can speak for Neufreistadt/CDS. This issue came up during the dispute with Ulrika: who is empowered to enter into negotiations with a third party on behalf of the CDS? There is no clarity to be found in our current constitution and, as a result, ad hoc solutions have to be cobbled together for each unique situation. A second hand sim came up for sale: who is empowered to take an executive decision and consider purchasing it on behalf of the CDS? It's not really clear, is it? There are other examples that I, and others, could cite.

My main point is that the lack of an executive branch makes it difficult for ourselves and outsiders to agree on who has the authority to speak for the CDS and to take the kind of swift action needed to grasp opportunities for the community when these arise. If we accept that executive powers reside in the RA at present (and I think that point is arguable) then, in effect, no executive decisions can be taken between RA meetings unless they have been thought of in advance and delegated. We would be accepting that we cannot respond to new situations until the RA next meets and can make a decision (assuming that the meeting is even quorate). This is why things don't get done and why our current setup is inefficient.

Now, on your second point, there is the issue of which system to go for. The CSDF proposes a Chancellor and Cabinet derived from the Representative Assembly. The DPU seems to prefer a directly-elected Presidential system. Well, let's debate the merits of those alternatives. I prefer the CSDF proposal because:
[list:2dfjq5nt]We're a small community and the few politicians are needed the better! Under our proposal the LRA would double up as Chancellor and the Cabinet could be composed of RA members or other citizens. The DPU idea requires at least one extra elected person (and perhaps more, but we need to see a proposal to judge).
There is no need for a separate Executive branch election and, as has been discussed in relation to referenda, we need to avoid 'voter fatigue'.
Having two elected bodies - legislature and executive - is a recipe for legislative deadlock. By establishing two bodies with a mandate from the electorate you set up a situation where the two will vie for supremacy.[/list:u:2dfjq5nt]

This is a good debate, let's keep it going!

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Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

I eagerly wish to enter this discussion without overstepping my own "neutrality", which many consider to be one of the requirements of any members of the SC (hopefully, one day that becomes codified in law as well, so as to make it clear).

I absolutely agree with Claude's two points, and you also know I endorse a model that "gets things done", while being adamant about proper validation and checks on thos "things that were done". This trade-off can be accomplished in many ways. Currently, the way it is done is sadly through "adhocracy" (there is the name again!): a situation arises, someone is hesitatingly pointed out to fix things, and we go on with our lives as if nothing has happened.

Claude's recent example is the best possible one for the "adhocracy" method. The city was in ruins; there was no quorum on the RA, so the legislative aspects were unfortunately stopped to a standstill. But the city needed to be rebuilt. Usually, that task relies on the shoulders of the Guild, but it needs a mandate, a budget, and some form of after-the-fact validation. This was an emergency, so all the "normal" procedures were suspended, so that things "could get done". And they were! Very successfully, if I might add, and without any fuss or drama afterwards.

Reflecting on the past, what can we see? First, that there is no method to deal with "emergencies". In this case, an "emergency" is any act that needs proper validation by a RA with a quorum. There is also not a clear mandate in several areas. Some groups are "empowered" without legislation; another example is what I amusingly call the "Police Force" — the group of people with the power to ban griefers or return their objects. Although the banning is legislated, in the sense that this action has to be validated on a SC hearing, it's shaky. Who are the members of the "Police Force"? Who leads them? Who is accountable if the "Police Force" does not behave properly and abuses its (unwritten) power? Why do I have to write "Police Force" with quotation marks? :)

This is not the only case. The Sim Planning Committee is another ad hoc structure, which I refered elsewhere, and which is working rather well, despite some hiccups. It meets regularly, has someone to set on the ageda, delegates tasks, publishes reports, makes recommendations. I would say that so far it has been one of our best examples of good adhocracy at work — a body of interested citizens that are actually working flawlessly. They don't even have any "power" except the one delegated by the RA, so all is proper and correct. The model works.

However, the next time any long-term planning is needed (say, for the third sim), a new body has to be created. New legislation has to be passed; a new group is established; a new "charter" is created; and the same issues are going to be discussed again: who sets the agenda, when will the new group meet, and so on.

Now, creating "commitees" or "comissions" to deal with a problem, report the findings, and get back with the results to the proper authorities are all part of a democratic process — since there is delegation, supervision, management, overseeing, accountability, and so on. Still, it's inefficient. Why should we have a different "planning committee" every time we need to plan anything? Even small towns have a "urban development department" — specialists and professionals (architects, civil engineers, landscape architects, the odd environmentalist expert, etc.) that work on urban development all the time, and that report to either the Mayor directly or to a City Council. In a RL environment that constantly needs hints and tips from the urban development department, this is a body of all city councils (even tiny ones — where you might just have one person).

We tend to view the above, concrete examples as being part of the Guild. Ie. the Guild should do the "policing", the Guild should do the emergency rebuilding, the Guild should do the planning. In a sense, under the current model, it would make sense to have a super-Guild that deals with all these issues. However, the Guild has traditionally not worried about them directly — unless the RA has given them this mandate, which they haven't (the original city in Anzere, despite its many flaws, had a provisional government which worked that way: a plan was devised by the proto-RA, and the proto-Guild assigned several teams the work to follow that plan. The details of if a prim should be blue or gray was not discussed at the RA level, but at the Master-Journeyman-Apprentice level. Still, naturally, the model that worked for Anzere is outdated and does not work any more).

The problem we have right now is that the Guild, effectively, does not have executive powers directly — only the RA has them. The RA can obviously delegate things to the Guild (and has done so very successfully in many cases — think about the MoCA) but often the delegation of powers stops very early in the process. When the Guild needs more input to continue their work, it has to go back to the RA for deliberation — which takes months.

Now, the City of Neufreistadt has several things that can be run "slowly" — ie. long periods of discussion, extending over several months, for finally issuing a deliberation that the Guild can work with — and these examples can be successfully implemented this way. For instance, although we have the ability — financially, politically, and in terms of required human resources — to add a second sim since perhaps December 2005, we are only mid-way through the process now. It's all good; it's not critical for the continuing of Neufreistadt. One can argue that the same can be said for the banking system; the first bills were dated of the beginning of 2005, and still unimplemented. Again, that is no crucial function. The worst that can be said about that very-long-term planning is that once things finally get a deliberation, they're so hopelessly outdated in this ever-changing world, that they have to be discussed again. That's ok; again, a slow pace can work for us in some cases better than a harsh, risk-taking opportunity.

However, as we grow, we also need to deal with immediacy: ie. banning a griefer, returning a house that was "broken" by the SL permission system, replying to an invitation from a group to "join forces" together, setting up some crucial things to deal with emergencies — these become more and more important, and also have a much worse effect if they are unattended. A good example is griefing. If the SC had to meet (and God knows how the SC is even more crippled in that regard than the RA!) every time a griefer enters the City, we would be completely in flaming ruins before we had a chance to set up the meeting, not even to speak about an eventual deliberation.

When we're pressed to do things quickly, they happen outside all the boundaries of our normal rules and procedures (adhocracy again). The people that are online or available gather together and fix things; later there can be a posteriori validation. Or not at all; since things get fixed, why bother to mention them? A good example is the set up of the wiki, forum, site, etc. While the wiki, for instance, has a very long and thorough definition of what the whole 2D-side of Neufreistadt should look like — something discussed and changed by three or four people over several months, one of which isn't even online any more for seven months! — the truth is that the current things that are online are far from the intended purpose. For instance, one very simple requirement — integration with a single login to every area — has never been accomplished, just because it would take too long, using the tools that currently are available. Web design was never approved nor commissioned. Still, we use those tools every day. It's another example where things were done because they needed to be done, but no one validated them, no legislation was passed to support them, and there is no way to complain (through the formal channels) if people disagree with things.

This is what happens when we rely much more upon the personality of people, in whom we trust, than in the system of laws that are supposed to be the founding pillar of Neufreistadt. If someone emails Gwyneth, our de facto webmaster, saying "Gwyn, we need a 'links' section on the website", the arrogant Gwyn can answer: "What for?" And the next questions will be: "Why do you ask for it?" and "Did the RA approve it?" and finally "Why don't you do it on your own?? I have more to think about right now". What can the democratic processes in Neufreistadt do in this case? Well, emit legislation to the effect: "By NL5-6, the RA demands that a new section is created on the web site, to be used for adding links". All great, but to whom is this order targeted? The RA even approved a bill for establishing the webmaster as a civil servant, but that role was not fullfilled. So this order would go to the de facto webmaster, who would dismiss it and say: "hey, guys, if you want changes, do it on your own; I'm not the official webmaster. Oh, and BTW, if you want to do it on your own, please pay for the registration of the domain name".

(As you are all full aware, this is exactly what happened before the 'new' website went up; replace 'Gwyn' with 'Ulrika' and you'll see what I mean)

Many at this point would probably laugh, because they trust me, and know that I wouldn't ever do such a thing :) But the truth is, you don't know. For all that you know, I can have a child tomorrow as well, and use that pretext as emotional blackmail to have things going as I want them to be :) (again, the likeliness of that happening is about as high as finding sentient beings on the Moon, but nothing is impossible :) ). Worse than that, Neufreistadt has lots of new citizens — and more are to come — and they can only read the following bits from our history: "so you had a lot of drama from allowing someone to run the websites, and when you finally overcame that, you let someone else run the websites as well? Why shouldn't history repeat itself?" The usual argument that "because we trust Gwyn" can always be debunked by someone who will ask: "but didn't you trust Ulrika before as well?"

I hope the point I'm trying to make is clear. While naturally several other things are important — and juggling priorities is the hardest task for any RA — I personally fear the lack of indefinition from clear delegation of powers very worrying. I'm not worried at all about the long-term planning, and I can live with the concept that in some cases (new sim, banking system), a decision that would take 2 weeks under a different model can take one year or more under the current one. I see it as a trade-off for living in a democratic community that is still on its infant stages. But other things are much more worrying, when ad hoc structures are set into place, and everybody shyly forgets about them — if they don't give us a problem, and deals with something that needs to be dealt with, let them stay — until it's too late.

In my role as Dean, for instance, I have advised "newcomers" to the RA in the past that the attrition at the RA is its biggest drawback. There was a reason why the terms were only 4 months. After the first 2 months, the "eagerness to serve" becomes secondary. If you look at what happens overall in SL, a 2-4 month period is the longest that most people are willing to do voluntarily and for free; it's not typical of Neufreistadt, but of SL overall. This means that a RA that wants to act fast has to make sure that it works quickly and early, in an intense way, since after two months, the probability of having a quorum decreases over time. Notice that this happened on each and every term. We pinpointed early on that the fault was having two many members (7 instead of the 5 we have now), and so the quorum was never met. We have now 5 people, and we still don't get quorums after 3 months. We could reduce it to three people, and we would see the same happening again. And finally, someone crazy enough would suggest that all the power gets into one person, and we'd be doomed.

Does this mean that the RA, as a body, is unworkable? Not at all. What is flawed is the notion that the RA, as an executive body, does not work — we have proved that in our 20 months or so of existence. Despite the lack of procedures, for instance, the SC or the Guild don't get paralysed in the important things if they don't have a "quorum" (which doesn't even apply to the Guild, as a matter of fact). The Chairs at the SC can pronounce judgement on any hearing that is set, even without a Dean; there is no legal requirement for a "collective of judges" to listen in to all cases. And the tradition that members of the SC shold refrain from posting their ideas publicly — because they could be viewed as policy and not opinion — shows how well this concept is in the minds of the citizens.

The RA, however, has no such luck. Burdened with the task of having to meet to deliberate and to pass legislation, an individual member of the RA has no power at all — no matter how many votes they've earned at the last election. Only the collective has any power; but when the collective is unable to meet — something that has an increased difficulty because of the so many different timezones involved — it's power is virtually zero. But that can't be! The ultimate source of power is the representative assembly; it's the only one validated by the citizens by their vote; everything depends on a working RA to, well, work.

So we can't have our first and most important body paralysed and unable to deliberate. It's an abomination and perversion of reality. I fear that history taught us abouty what happened with "too weak" RAs: at the first time of trouble — "emergencies" — ad hoc "leaders" emerge and effectively control the power, delegating trivial and redundant tasks to the non-working RA. In Neualtenburg, that happened under Ulrika. In RL, that happened with the fascist regimes in Europe.

On a positive and optimist note, I don't want to give the (very wrong) impression that I think that "fascism" (either from the left, the right, or any other direction) is imminent in Neufreistadt, and my reasoning is always the same: this will not happen because, sooner or later, residents of SL will "give up" and turn to other things — again, after 2-4 months, most people give up. Particularly resilient people might be stubborn enough to hold out longer, but sooner or later, they'll go away as well. On the other hand, I think that we are all worried enough about the lack of operationality of the RA, to the point that both parties currently elected wish to introduce a clear way to delegate the executive powers — only the model for doing so differs, but I'm sure they'll come to a compromise (as we are usually fond of doing :) ). In my mind, this is the most crucial aspect of this upcoming term. Speaking personally from my own hill that looks back to the past, our city has always struggled with a too weak RA, and the opportunity of "threat" came always from outside the RA. Almost always it was a inability to deliberate that brought the RA to a standstill — either through improper formulation of the Constitution, giving too much power to groups outside the RA; or by the lack of quorum.

It is quite clear to me that both issues have to be addressed at the same time. We cannot whip the members of the RA to remain awake in session 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We cannot expect them to meet at odd hours, have emergency meetings, and deal with all issues inside their tiny group. It's unpractical and, in my opinion, impossible — we would have much higher attrition if, say, a bill was passed to have the RA meet every day, to be able to deal with the ongoing progress of the city.

Instead, a delegation of some powers is the only choice — and by this I don't mean the isolated decision of delegating the promotion of an event to a person, and then remove that "power" when the event is over, but setting up a framework of power delegation is the key. Having all the legislative and executive powers to command, the RA should work out the best way to deal with them. In RL, this means standing or permanent commissions; but it also means that the executive powers are delegated to a specific group or body of people that work all the time, giving the RA the required time to deliberate and discuss the far-ranging strategy and the overall policies.

I bring up again the example of the Sim Planning Committee. So far, I think it was one case of success. The SPC is apolitical; it is empowered (in a limited way, but that is out of the point) by the RA, and directly overseen by the RA; it distributes the load of planning among several people with the required skills: urban planning, finance, legal. It has a procedure to meet and to reach decisions inside the group. It reports (back to the RA) regularly. The meetings are open and everyone can join them or read their transcripts. It even sub-delegated tasks to sub-commitees — further advancing the specialisation. But people also work "at home" (ie. outside the environment of SL) to bring their views back, already polished and in the proper format, for all to discuss and eventually reach a decision. So the SPC was able to do in a few weeks almost all required tasks, it raised new and complex questions that were unknown (ie. the need for void sims; the eventual need of relocation, etc.). And in a few months, when the sim is built, this awesome institution of Neufreistadt will disband, disappear without a trace.

The interesting bit (although not totally unexpected for me!) was that this Sim Planning Commitee raised questions and doubts that were not even in their jurisdiction. Models of political organisation were briefly discussed, although totally besides the point. Why didn't that surprise me? Because it is indeed in the hands of those who have a complex, multi-skilled task to solve, that "marginal" ideas emerge and need to be addressed. Neufreistadt, collectively seen as the sum of all citizens, is like that; but even smaller groups have the same problem, even if their focus is much narrower.

I find it very sad, and that's why I personally dislike this model. We clearly identified all the problems with the planning of a new sim and devised ways to deal with them. A pseudo-framework was established, sometimes with a bit of legislation, sometimes naturally emerging from the group itself (like establishing procedure and deciding that to make the meetings more productive, sub-committees needed to be appointed). While nothing in this world is perfect, the work of the SPC was actually quite good for an "improptu" group. So good, as a matter of fact, that I can only wonder why it doesn't play a permanent part of Neufreistadt. We will need Urban Development all the time. We will need financial re-evaluation all the time. We will need promotion, events, and ideas to attract tourists and potential citizens all the time. As a matter of fact, under this name or another, we need an SPC all the time!

But once Colonia Nova is up — the SPC will be disbanded.

The arguing against its continuing existence is mostly one based on "tradition" and "delegation of permanent powers". Traditionally, one reasons that we truly have only three branches in government. But even that is not entirely correct. The Neufreistadt Bank even has a Guild-issued Charter, and although there is considerable overlap, it works under that Charter. Some legislation has been created for that fine institution, although it addresses only a tiny bit of what is really needed. There is a Chamber of Commerce, with some rough guidelines of what it should do. Again, legislation is spurious, vague, and only touched the very tip of the iceberg (who appoints people to the CoC? How do companies register with it? And so on), but not totally unexistent. So, these institutions — or an embryo of them, at least — do exist, they're just un-functional. This is mostly because they are created without a charter or at least a purpose that establishes their fundamental way of working. Worse than that, they might have similar needs, but they have different charters. There is no uniformisation. And worse than that, who do they report to? Ok, apparently both report to the Guild... but... who validates the Guild's overseeing, since the Guild doesn't have an internal structure, no procedures, and no transparency? This is not a criticism to our most excellent Guildmeister — again, we are lucky to have had wonderful Guildmeisters in our past, but on the other hand: why should a democratic city be based only on "luck" and "having nice people", if all the original intent of Anzere/Neualtenburg/Neufreistadt was to create something that lasted well beyond the people that were part of the city, and was independent on their "niceness" or "competence"?

Patroklus is much better than me at condensing this thought to its conclusion. On June 2, the citizens reacted wonderfully well to an unexpected emergency, by self-organising themselves and volunteering (even many non-citizens did help us!). All that happened because we have "nice" and "wonderful" people around us — which is great, we're attracting nice people, hooray for that :) It's great to see that everyone feels enough about their place in the city to come together in the case of great need. Again, hooray, since this feeling is far from being common — in SL or RL, it does not matter. But did it help us to fix what was wrong in the past? No. I think we felt so excited that things were rebuilt so fast — and better, to an extent — that we dismissed the whole idea after the fact. We're not "stronger" just because we have "nice people" around. We should get stronger to give the opportunity of having these "nice people" fitting into the working structure of Neufreistadt, by validating their efforts inside a legal framework, and by making sure that, if the "nice people" are not so nice as we thought they were, we can still work with them.

This is for me the basis of the future workings of Neufreistadt: an end of the adhocracy that gets "nice people" together to make decisions well beyond their mandates to decide. Instead, an institutionalisation of those ad hoc groups. Making them permanent, legal, organised, fully transparent, and accountable to whomever they have to be accountable to. We have all the tools to do so — unlike any other group in SL, we can vote for those "tools" to be deployed.

So, hopefully, the next time we need something to be done, we don't have to rely upon "nice" people to do it for us, but we can have legitimately empowered people to do that.

"I'm not building a game. I'm building a new country."
  -- Philip "Linden" Rosedale, interview to Wired, 2004-05-08

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Gwyneth Llewelyn
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Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Perhaps I could also add something else... and still struggling to keep a neutral opinion...

The issue of "accountabiliy" was raised, and at least three methods have been suggested, grossly speaking:

1) Executive is [i:2pifbtj0]indirectly[/i:2pifbtj0] accountable (on a permanent, ongoing basis) to the RA, in the sense that the RA are [i:2pifbtj0]representatives[/i:2pifbtj0] of the citizens (ie. not the citizens [i:2pifbtj0]themselves[/i:2pifbtj0]). Since Neufreistadt is a (representative) republic, it's not unusual to have bodies requiring constant validation to be responsible to the directly elected representatives (since otherwise the citizens would have to do a referendum every time this body emitted an opinion — not even Switzerland does that, although the Swiss citizens are [i:2pifbtj0]allowed[/i:2pifbtj0] to do it :) ). This is the so-called "European" model that Ranma refers to, and is close to both Ashcroft's and the CSDF's proposal (naming the model "European" is an oversimplification, as dozens of non-European democracies use it as well, but let it remain like that for now :) ). A particular aspect of this model is that the RA (ie. the elected representatives) never relinquish their legislative and executive powers to external branches; the executive is appointed, not elected, and when voting for the RA, citizens are effectively voting for both powers at the same time (legislative [i:2pifbtj0]and[/i:2pifbtj0] executive). Thus, from the point of view of the SC, this model would in theory not even need a constitutional change at all, since no changes in terms of balance of powers are actually established (although I would expect [i:2pifbtj0]some[/i:2pifbtj0] changes to be made — just not many dramatic ones!).

2) Executive is validated by the citizens by universal suffrage at set terms. I'm refraining to call this the "American" model, because, again, it would be an oversimplification, since many other democracies (and even some non-democratic monarchies — think about countries where the monarch is elected and has absolute powers :) ) use it or a variant of it. Under this model, executive and legislative are branches balancing each other out. The difficult bit is about establishing where each one's responsabilities lie (ie. avoiding conflicts between both branches); it also needs a good clarification of who defines "policy" and who defines "strategy", since both can theoretically be at odds at each other (think about a popularity contest that selects the nicest executive officer, but who doesn't care a bit about what policies are defined by the legislative branch... and under a common law system, the executive could effectively pick the laws they prefered to implement the strategy they wished). It thus requires for a complete rewriting of the Constitution, since a whole new model of checks and balances have to be artificially created (how will both branches relate to the SC, for instance? In case of conflict of opinion, who will prevail? All this needs to be defined and codified).

3) No executive branches, but direct delegation to the bureaucracy. This is what I now tend to call the "Neufreistadt" model, if I can be so bold :) The only real disadvantage right now is that the Guild is currently [i:2pifbtj0]not[/i:2pifbtj0] working as a Civil Service, although that would be just a matter of reorganising things. The logic behind this model is that a very strongly-empowered Civil Service could answer directly to an elected body (the RA), as long as the factor of absolute trust can be established. "Rule-by-bureaucracy" was suggested by many political science authors, both from the left and the right, and its weakness lies basically on the assumption that a weak RA could effectively be unable to counter the effects of a ruthless Head of the Civil Service, which has a tremendous power in his hands — the strike — to paralyse government entirely (ie. the case when the RA unappoints the Head of Civil Service, but is unable to do so, because it refuses to set up the procedures to appoint a new one).

However, with proper legislation and a good framework, this should be possible to implement (better) in Neufreistadt. Justice's RL example is far from being uncommon :) and applies to small cities like ours perfectly.

"I'm not building a game. I'm building a new country."
  -- Philip "Linden" Rosedale, interview to Wired, 2004-05-08

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Post by Justice Soothsayer »

[quote:mwon8p8d]Executive is indirectly accountable (on a permanent, ongoing basis) to the RA, in the sense that the RA are representatives of the citizens (ie. not the citizens themselves)..... naming the model "European" is an oversimplification, as dozens of non-European democracies use it as well, but let it remain like that for now [/quote:mwon8p8d]

We could also call this the City Manager form of government. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_manager My RL city recently went through a transition, firing the longtime city manager. The chair of our city council is "Mayor", though that position has no executive responsibilities. Interestingly, it takes 4 of 7 votes on our city council to hire a City Manager, but requires 5 of 7 votes to fire one.

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